Friday, March 29, 2013

Mr. Elected Official: Honeybee Die-Off Worsens; Do You Care?

Hello, is anyone home?

Our honeybees our dying and our pesticide-soaked food supply is in jeopardy. Yet, our elected and appointed officials continue to cater to every financial-based whim of the chemical companies.

A front-page story ("Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms") in today's New York Times (and accompanying video on-line) tells the story. However, for many people, the malady is no mystery: "[B]eekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor."

William Dahle, one such beekeeper, appears in the video and seems very, very confident about the genesis of the die-off, which he compares to the death of the canary in the coal mine.

"When honeybees dies off, it's serious," Dahle says. "They are coming up with new insecticides all the time and they seem to be detrimental to everything we do."

Here is the video story, which I hope some honest elected and appointed officials watch. (If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch.)

Don't think the bee die-off doesn’t concern all of us. From the article:

"Nor is the impact limited to beekeepers. The Agriculture Department says a quarter of the American diet, from apples to cherries to watermelons to onions, depends on pollination by honeybees. Fewer bees means smaller harvests and higher food prices."

Click here to read the entire article.

Click here to learn more about die-off, courtesy of Pesticide Action Network.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Breakfast Ideas, Avoiding Cereals & Other Nutrient-Poor Foods

My post last week about Cheerios' future at Whole Foods (because of impending labeling by the store of foods containing genetically-engineered ingredients) prompted a reader, Kelly, to ask for breakfast ideas other than expensive cereals, most of which are of dubious nutritional value. Kelly added two caveats: "1) It's got to be fast - I've starving when I wake up. 2) It's got to feed egg-hating toddlers."

With minimal advance preparation—and more importantly, if we stop thinking breakfast means nutritionless (and, I would argue, dangerous) refined carbohydrates (cereals, bagels, muffins, energy bars, etc.) that have been hypermarketed as the way to start the day—the possibilities are endless.

To start, consider these options, based on . . . real food:
  • Fresh fruit (whole or cut), a chunk of cheese, a chunk of whole grain bread.
  • Nuts, dried fruit and a chunk of cheese.
  • Oatmeal (make it yourself!) with any of an array of toppings.
  • Yogurt (plain!) with any of an array of toppings (dried fruit, nuts, rolled oats, cinnamon, maple syrup).
  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread.
  • Avocado with sunflower seeds or nuts sprinkled on top.
  • Quinoa with chopped tomatoes, avocado and olive oil.
 Sure, the above ideas sound peculiar in the context of today's processed food environment, but consuming refined carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, etc.) that convert to sugar in our bodies and throw our internal insulin-regulating systems out of whack sounds bizarre to anyone not influenced by the junk food companies' modern marketing machine.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Representative Slaughter Continues Anti-Antibiotics Onslaught

For those unaware (or in denial) about the use of antibiotics in our food animals, read this press release, which I received earlier today from the office of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the only microbiologist in Congress and the people's champion of this important issue.

(Click here to read about the rampant overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. The more you know, the more prone you may be to start buying antibiotic-free meat and dairy.)

Definitive Link Confirms Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Transmits from Livestock to Humans
Slaughter Demands Strong Federal Response

"Rochester, NY – Today, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25), the only microbiologist in Congress, reacted to a new study that conclusively identified transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from livestock to humans. Currently, MRSA kills more Americans each year than HIV/AIDS. 
"The groundbreaking study was conducted by genetics researchers who analyzed the genomes of MRSA bacteria from patients and their farm animals, and found the samples to be genetically identical. Published on Tuesday in EMBO Molecular Medicine, the study confirms animal-to-human transmission of MRSA. 

"In reaction, Slaughter sent a letter to Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today calling for immediate action to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock. 

"In sending the letter, Slaughter said, 'This study ends any debate. The extreme overuse of antibiotics in livestock is endangering human health.' Slaughter continued, 'For decades, the United States Food and Drug Administration has failed to act in the face of a growing threat. These findings make it clearer than ever that their failure is endangering human life. Starting today, the FDA must take strong federal action to reduce antibiotic use in livestock and protect human health.'

"These findings come on the heels of public health warnings in the United Kingdom and the United States about the catastrophic threat of antibiotic disease.  Earlier this month, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control, warned that 'our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections.'

"Slaughter is the author of the HR 1150, the 'Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act' (PAMTA).  The legislation is designed to stop the overuse of antibiotics on the farm- a practice that is accelerating the growth of antibiotic-resistance disease. 

"Currently, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are sold for agricultural use. Most often, these antibiotics are distributed at sub-therapeutic levels to healthy animals as a way to compensate for crowded and unsanitary living conditions or to promote growth. Any effort to stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria must address the overuse of antibiotics in food-animals.

"PAMTA is supported by 450 organizations, including public health organizations, scientists, the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and small farmers across the United States."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to Store Ginger

Extra fresh ginger? Don’t fret, don't throw it out and don't wrap it. Just put the ginger in the refrigerator as is; any flesh exposed by a knife cut will scab up, just like us! 

Ginger that I store this way lasts for weeks in my refrigerator. Once it starts to shrivel, though, it's on its last legs. But remember: It's not stale bread if you are starving.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Center for Food Safety: Shame on Monsanto and Its Minions

Yes, there are three sides to every story, but I really like the Center for Food Safety's interpretation of Monsanto's latest gambit:
Center Calls Rider “Corporate Welfare” for Monsanto and Other Biotech Companies
"(March 20, 2013) The Center for Food Safety (CFS) condemns the inclusion of a dangerous corporate earmark, the 'biotech rider,' in the Senate-crafted Continuing Resolution (CR), which passed today on the House floor.  The rider undermines the federal courts’ ability to safeguard farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops.  Moreover, the rider represents an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review of agency actions and is a major violation of the separation of powers, an essential element of U.S. constitutional governance and law.
"While there are no definite fingerprints for whoever is responsible for the rider, the earmark was allowed under the direction of Senator Barbara Mikulski, the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee (D-MD).  Congress has held no hearings on this controversial biotech rider and many Democrats in the Committee were unaware of its presence in the CR. Additionally, Mikulski and the Senate Appropriations Committee failed to bring this rider in front of the Agriculture or Judiciary Committees, disregarding their expertise and jurisdiction and in blatant violation of common practice.
“'In this hidden backroom deal, Senator Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental, and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,' said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety.  'This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Senator Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.'”
"Once the bill takes effect on March 28th, the rider will only be in effect for the life of the 6 month CR.  CFS intends to launch a major campaign to make sure this deception is not included in the next round of appropriations bills.  CFS and its allies are confident that the food movement will ensure that this abusive rider is absent from any future legislation.
"CFS applauds Senator Tester and his co-sponsors Senators Boxer, Gillibrand, Leahy, Begich and Blumenthal for their efforts to pass an amendment stripping the biotech rider and other corporate 'pork' earmarks from the CR.  Despite receiving calls and emails from tens of thousands of citizens opposing the industry-driven rider and supporting the amendment to strike it, the amendment was ultimately not successful.  CFS calls on all Senators to join with Senator Tester and his co-sponsors to ensure that this egregious form of corporate welfare is not included in any future Appropriation bills.
"Over 100 of the nation’s top organizations and businesses have opposed Sec. 735, including the National Farmers Union, American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, Environmental Working Group, Stonyfield Farm, Nature’s Path, Consumers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Public Citizen and dozens more."

Friday, March 22, 2013

What Does the Future Hold for Cheerios at Whole Foods?

What's the future hold for Cheerios at Whole Foods?
Whole Foods' announcement that it will label foods containing genetically-engineered ingredients as such by 2018 unmasks several scenarios for the bevy of products the chain carries that are far from (meaningless adjective to follow) "natural."

(And, no, not everything Whole Foods carries is organic. A rough estimate, derived from shopping several times per week there over the past five years, is that about a quarter of the food Whole Foods sells is organic.)

Back to labeling. Let's examine the possibilities for Cheerios (which I can't believe Whole Foods carries, but that's a post for another day). The costly cereal (save your money, stop buying cereal) is made mostly from oats, but it also contains modified corn starch and sugar.

Since about 90 percent of the corn grown in this country is genetically-engineered (and sprayed with a bounty of pesticides), we have to assume that the modified corn starch in Cheerios is genetically-engineered. In addition, the sugar is almost definitely from genetically-engineered sugar beets (resistant to the glyphosate in Monsanto's Roundup pesticide), from which more than half of our white sugar derives.

So, as I see it, here are the options for General Mills, which owns Cheerios, going forward:

  1. General Mills labels Cheerios sold just in Whole Foods as genetically-engineered.
  2. General Mills labels all Cheerios sold everywhere as genetically-engineered.
  3. General Mills reformulates Cheerios sold just in Whole Foods and stops using genetically-engineered ingredients for a small percentage of its product.
  4. General Mills stops using genetically-engineered ingredients in all Cheerios sold everywhere.
  5. General Mills stops selling Cheerios in Whole Foods.
Which scenario do you think General Mills will choose?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Parent Confronts Son's Allergy to "Unsconscionable" Red Dyes

Did everyone see the comment left by a parent earlier today in response to yesterday's post about Kellogg's new response to its use of artificial colors in seemingly-healthy Nutri-Grain cereal bars? I am sure the parent's experience is not that uncommon.

Remember, the more of us who take the time to tell the junk food and pharmaceutical companies how we feel about their questionable products, the sooner these products will be reformulated.

"Artificial colors in food and drug products are horrifying for parents of children with allergies. My son has an allergy to Red-40, and that took quite a while for us to figure out. GoGurt which was marketed to children, children's Motrin, and other children's drugs, also contained Red-40 when my son was younger, before we knew of his allergy. I recall telling one drug company representative over the phone that it was 'unconscionable' to include these chemicals in products knowing they could affect children. Ten years later they are finally seeing the light. It is not enough to provide 'allergy-free' medicines because as every parent knows, when a child is sick and you are rushing you may not be in the proper frame of mind to pay attention to what you purchase or give to your child, and you may not even realize that a chemical is affecting your child. In a conversation with Yoplait about GoGurt, I noted that the yogurts they marketed to adults did not contain artificial color, but GoGurt which was marketed to children did! These days, we avoid shopping in stores that sell products containing Red-40 (think major food chains), and my children almost routinely refuse medication for minor illnesses. I would say that is marketing strategy in the reverse! "
Well done, mom or dad!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kellogg's Answer About Artificial Colors Now a Softer Hue

While the junk food and chemical companies fight to keep the status quo in regard to our corrupt food supply, it just became evident to me that the tenor of the conversation may have irrevocably changed.

I called Kellogg's toll-free phone number this morning to ask why the company is still using petroleum-based artificial colors in its advertised-as-healthy Nutri-Grain cereal bars.

In the past, when I asked this question of junk food companies, I'd be given a stock answer along the lines of  "we have many products that appeal to many consumers," "consumers want brighter colors" or "the colors are approved by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration]."

Since Pepperidge Farm (owned by Campbell Soup Company) has dropped the artificial colors from its colored goldfish and Yoplait (General Mills) has done the same from its Trix yogurt, I wondered where Kellogg's stood.

Expecting an evasive answer, I was met with surprise when the customer service representative I spoke with energetically told me—in response to my question that only asked about artificial colors—that "Kellogg's is definitely taking a look at moving away from GMOs [genetically modified organisms], artificial colors and artificial sweeteners. I can't give you a time frame, but these are things that Kellogg's is definitely trying to move away from."


Granted, Kellogg's may be blowing smoke up my bum while it still uses the artificial colors, but the fact that the above is now the scripted answer—instead of "we don't give a crap about you, your kids or the horse you rode in on"—is quite telling and hopefully a sign of better things to come.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rebirth in Action: May We All Become Mindful Eaters

It has become more evident to me over the years that there is a split (far from even) in our society between people who understand the ramifications of our food supply and do their best to eat accordingly and people who don't have the slightest idea that most of what we are offered to eat is more foodstuff than food.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, though, this bifurcation does not strictly play out along socioeconomic lines. I've seen the insides of enough refrigerators and cupboards across all demographics to know that household income and formal education are not indicators of eating patterns.

So much of this ties in with how, culturally, we think about food and nutrition in this country. Thankfully, though, we are paying greater heed to the issues at hand (obesity, health care costs, loss of productivity and intelligence, etc.) and starting to reeducate our kids. It seems like some of our teenagers know more about the food chain (grass-fed vs. corn-fed animals, sustainability, how vegetables grow, etc.) than those born one to three decades earlier.

I cooked with a group of 16-year-olds the other day and they had studied these issues in school last year. Unfortunately, other teenagers I meet are as clueless as their parents and grandparents. But, I believe, knowledge begets knowledge and we are just in the first stages of this rebirth. The omnipresent headlines—whether they be about the dangers of pesticides or Whole Foods announcing it will label foods containing genetically engineered ingredients—only help to popularize the movement.

As Michael Moss, the New York Times writer and author of "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us," said recently on Leonard Lopate's radio show, "I think we are starting to see people across America, middle class people especially, who are realizing that there are some little things they can do to move from being mindless eaters to mindful eaters." 

May mindful eaters one day rule the world.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Whole Foods to Label Genetically Engineered Ingredients

Lindbergh lands in Paris; Nixon resigns!

In case you missed it, 10 days ago Whole Foods became the first major American grocery chain in the United States to mandate the labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients

The policy won't go into effect until 2018—a fact that has been met with much scorn by labeling advocates—but I believe this could be a seminal moment for the betterment of our food supply that hopefully will have widespread positive ramifications way before 2018. The conversation has been amplified and more and more people will be aware of the issue.

Consumer advocacy groups were enthusiastic, to varying degrees.

The Environmental Working Group took a more populist approach:

"Great news - Whole Foods Market just announced that the company will require all genetically engineered foods on its shelves to be labeled by 2018! It is the first national grocery chain to do so.

"Whole Foods Market has 3,300 products that are not genetically engineered, more than any other retailer in North America. Now it is taking it a step further. By 2018, any food sold in Whole Foods Market's U.S. and Canadian stores that contains genetically engineered ingredients must be labeled. This even includes meat that was fed genetically engineered feed - going beyond what any other nation requires for GE labeling. Whole Foods Market is the first national grocery store chain to set a deadline for full transparency of genetically engineered foods.

"It is also a major victory for consumers who want to know what they are eating and a game-changer for federal and state-level labeling initiatives.
"It may seem like five years is a long time for this policy to take effect, but the fact is, this is a huge task. About 88 percent of field corn, 90 percent of all soybeans and more than 90 percent of canola seed grown in the U.S. come from genetically engineered seeds. Still, we predict that Whole Foods Market's announcement will bring immediate changes from many of its suppliers.

"There is currently no legal requirement for genetically engineered food to be labeled. You have the right to know what you and your family are eating. That's why we're going to keep fighting for genetically engineered foods to be labeled nationwide. Thank you for standing with us and helping us move markets.
On the other hand, the Organic Consumers Association would like to see even more transparency from Whole Foods:
"Whole Foods made a huge splash in the media last week when the company announced that its U.S. and Canadian stores will be required to label all genetically engineered (GE) foods in its stores, by 2018. But five years? Surely the largest national organic grocer in the country can do better than that. After all, Whole Foods is already labeling in its European stores.
"Don’t get us wrong. This is great news. It’s a clear victory for consumers and the GMO labeling movement. And a serious blow to Monsanto. And it’s proof that marketplace pressure works, that consumers have the power to change food policy. So let’s take it a step further. Whole Foods makes billions of dollars a year selling products that carry the misleading 'natural' label. Not only do most of these products contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but they’re also full of pesticides, synthetic chemicals and a host of very unnatural additives. It’s time for Whole Foods to clean up its whole act, by creating a policy that says no product in its stores can be called 'natural' if it contains GMOs. Or any of that other unnatural stuff."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Steamer Basket Lost a Leg? Use a Ramekin for Balance

There's almost always a way to solve problems in the kitchen; no degree in rocket science is needed. (If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch real-life problem solving.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An Impromptu Lunch: No Recipe, but Lots of Flavor

Look, ma, no recipes!

I needed a quick lunch on Monday while I was cooking for a lecture/buffet I gave yesterday. I looked in my refrigerator, the seas parted and I saw the random food items that became my meal: half a raw onion, eggplant scraps from the eggplant rollatini I recently made, kale, quinoa and a jar of tomato paste.

I started by heating some olive oil in a sauté pan and chopping the onion. I threw the onion and eggplant (cut into cube-like pieces) into the pan and cooked until soft. (Eggplant is thirsty, so I had to add more oil.) 

When the veggies started to soften, I added tomato paste that I had diluted with some water. I cooked the mixture for about 10 minutes, until it thickened nicely. I added the kale with about three minutes left in that cooking time.

I seasoned with unrefined sea salt, fresh ground pepper and fresh lemon juice and served it over quinoa with a chunk of whole wheat sourdough bread on the side.

Quick, easy, delicious, nutritious and no recipes!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kitchen Tip: Use Your Belly to Protect Your Food

Don't let your serving bowl or storage container fall to the ground; use your belly to prevent it from falling. Watch how below. (If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch.) 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Revelation of the Week: Bake, Don't Sauté, Eggplant Slices

I made eggplant rollatini (slices of eggplant rolled with ricotta cheese inside and topped with marinara sauce) this weekend. I usually sauté the eggplant (about 1/3 of an inch thick), but that process takes time (even with two pans going) and uses a lot of olive oil (monetary concern, not health).

As I was getting ready to sauté, I was thinking, "this is such a pain in the butt." Then it hit me: bake the eggplant in the oven. Derrrrrrr! Why had I not thought of this time-, oil- and mess-saving measure years ago?

I brushed each slice of eggplant with a little olive oil, placed them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and baked them in a 350-degree oven until they were soft (about seven minutes).

The moral of the story? In the kitchen, there is usually a different (and sometimes better) way of doing something.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Courtesy of PAN, More on GE Crops, Triclosan and Dying Birds

Three stories currently on Pesticide Action Network's blog (GroundTruth) expand on issues discussed recently in The Delicious Truth and are all quick, worthwhile reads that concern us all.

Here are the three, with opening paragraphs and links to the full stories.

Bumper Crops in India, No GE Required
"Small farmers in the rural Indian state of Bihar are setting yield records for rice, potatoes and wheat — without the use of genetically engineered (GE) seed or pesticides.
"Using an agroecology technique known as SRI, the farmers have more than quadrupled their previous yields. An official from the state's Ministry of Agriculture calls SRI 'revolutionary.'
"The acronym stands for System of Rice (or root) Intensification, and was developed by researchers from Cornell University working with Madagascar farmers in the 1980s. As described in a recent article in The Guardian, it is basically a 'less is more' approach in which farmers plant fewer seedlings with more space between each plant, keep the soil much drier and carefully weed between each plant to aerate the soil." (Read more.)
Minnesota Says 'No Thanks' to Triclosan
"Good news for public health and water quality from Minnesota this week. By June of this year, state agencies and institutions will no longer be buying soaps and cleaning products containing the pesticide triclosan.

"Governor Mark Dayton made the shift with an executive order signed Monday. The new policy — the first of its kind in the country — comes in response to a combination of strong science and public concern about the chemical's prevalence and harms.

"Earlier this year, researchers reported widespread triclosan contamination of Minnesota lakes, adding urgency to ongoing efforts of local groups such as Friends of the Mississippi River to curb use of this anti-microbial pesticide.

"Signaling concerns about exposure to the chemical, a statement from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) describes triclosan as an 'endocrine disrupting compound' believed to contribute to antibiotic resistance with links to other health and environmental problems." (Read more.)
First Bees, Now Birds
"Prairie bird populations are falling in many Midwestern states, from ring-necked pheasants to horned larks to sparrows. Scientists now say insecticides are a primary culprit.
"Minnesota birds are hardest hit with 12 species in decline, followed by Wisconsin with 11, and Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska and New York with nine affected species each." (Read more.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

NY Times: Deadly Bacteria Resisting Strongest Drugs

According to Representative Louise Slaughter's (D-NY) office, "in the United States, 80% of all antibiotics are used in agriculture—primarily given at sub therapeutic levels to healthy food animals as a way to raise healthy animals in crowded and unsanitary conditions.
Overuse of antibiotics contribute significantly to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

(Slaughter, a microbiologist, is the champion of antibiotic usage reform in Congress. She used to be very, very lonely, but as the dangers of antibiotics in our food supply have become more obvious, she has a lot of new best friends who happen to be Senators and Representatives.)

If the meat, dairy and eggs you are buying aren't organic or don't say "raised without antibiotics," assume antibiotics were used to help the cattle, chickens and pigs get twice as big in half the time. 

Why does it matter? Read "Deadly Bacteria That Resist Strongest Drugs Are Spreading" from earlier this week in The New York Times and you'll possibly changed your buying habits, if you haven't already. Click here to read the entire article, but here are its first four paragraphs:

"Deadly infections with bacteria that resist even the strongest antibiotics are on the rise in hospitals in the United States, and there is only a 'limited window of opportunity' to halt their spread, health officials warned Tuesday. 
"The bacteria, normally found in the gut, have acquired a lethal trait: they are unscathed by antibiotics, including carbapenems, a group of drugs that are generally considered a last resort. When these resistant germs invade parts of the body where they do not belong, like the bloodstream, lungs or urinary tract, the illness may be untreatable. The death rate from bloodstream infections can reach 50 percent. 

"Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the organisms 'nightmare bacteria' during a telephone news conference, and noted that they could pass their trait for drug resistance — encoded in a scrap of genetic material called a plasmid — along to other bacteria. 
"Most people who contract these infections already have other serious illnesses that require complicated treatment and lengthy stays in hospitals, nursing homes or long-term care facilities. One bit of good news, Dr. Frieden said, is that the infections do not seem to have spread beyond hospitals into the community at large. But that could easily happen, he warned."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Today's Lunch: Can't Talk, Gotta Eat, Bye!

I had exactly four minutes to prepare myself an early lunch today before running out the door for a cooking lesson.

Not eating was not an option, so I looked in my refrigerator and came up with the following. Remember, cooking doesn't always have to be a Julia Childesque production.

Big pool of organic olive oil in the bottom of a bowl. Huge dollop of organic ricotta cheese in the middle of the big pool of olive oil. Large handful of organic spinach to the side. Two slices of organic whole wheat sourdough on the other side. Unrefined sea salt, fresh ground pepper and dried oregano on top of the huge dollop of ricotta cheese. Not pictured is the piece of organic dark chocolate (85 percent) for dessert.

Gotta run!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In What World Could Country Time Lemonade Be "Juice"?

In what universe—except one grossly exploited and manipulated by calculated, scientific marketing—could Country Time Lemonade be considered both juice and appropriate for an 18-month-old?

As Michael Moss writes in "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us" (click here to read a New York Times Magazine article adapted from the book), the junk food companies vehemently target their products to lower-income and immigrant populations in order to increase sales. 

There are several explanations as to why this marketing is so penetrating—lack of education about the products, lower price (short term, not long term), convenience (it's not very convenient, though, to have body parts amputated because of diabetes)—but we know it works.

A friend, unfortunately, was recently on the losing side of this equation. He has an 18-month-old daughter who he and his wife entrust with a caregiver while they work 60- to 70-hour weeks.

The woman, foreign-born, is under strict orders to give the girl only water to drink. However, the other day, my friend heard his daughter say the word for juice in the caregiver's language. One thing led to another and he found out that his girl was drinking Country Time Lemonade ("juice").

He was incredulous, but I'll spare you the details.

More important, I'll reiterate my question: In what universe—except one grossly exploited and manipulated by calculated, scientific marketing—would Country Time Lemonade be considered both juice and appropriate for an 18-month-old?

I firmly believe that we are in dire need of a sweetened drink tax (for sodas, sports drinks, fruit drinks, etc.) or other serious governmental intervention in regard to junk food to help counter the insidious marketing that so plagues this country. Left to their own devices, the junk food companies will continue to unabashedly corrupt our children's health, no matter what morality dictates.

To argue that people should be smarter about the choices they make is, I believe, misguided. Does anyone really believe that the caregiver would mechanically dispense Country Time Lemonade if she knew its true constitution and dangers?

By the way, Country Time Lemonade's (lemon-less) ingredients are:

Sugar, fructose, citric acid, contains less than 2% of maltodextrin, natural flavor, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium citrate, magnesium oxide, calcium fumarate, soy lecithin, artificial color, yellow 5 lake, tocopherol (preserves freshness).
Click here to learn how to make lemonade from lemons. Click here to read about the dangers of petroleum-based artificial colors.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Use Baking Soda to Avoid Harsh Chemicals in Cleaners

One of the suggestions offered at the lecture I attended last week dealing with the safety of personal care products was to "use fewer products whenever possible." It's great advice, whether it be for personal care products, household cleaning supplies or food ingredients.

Coincidentally, over the weekend, I bought a new box of baking soda and its manufacturer (Whole Foods) offered a handful of additional uses for baking soda that could spare us exposure to superfluous (and expensive) products and their untested chemical agents.

Here are two possibilities; the first (which I had known about) obviates the need for commercial scouring powders and the second (which I just tried for the first time) works pretty well.

"Sparkling Kitchen Surfaces: Clean counters, tile floors, appliances, even food prep surfaces—with no chemical residue left behind. Simply sprinkle baking soda directly onto surfaces for gentle but effective scouring. For tile floors dissolve a ½ cup of baking soda in warm water to cut through dirt and grime.
"Freshen Musty Duds: When the dryer shuts off before the clothes are completely dry and they're left with that sour smell, you don't have to re-wash the entire load. Simply sprinkle a little baking soda on them, turn the dryer back on, and run it for at least 20 minutes."
I am sure a quick Google search would reveal dozens of additional great ideas. Anyone have any?

Friday, March 1, 2013

What the @&%# Is Ractopamine and Why Is Wilbur Eating It?

I received the following action alert yesterday from the Center for Food Safety, "a non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy membership organization established in 1997 for the purpose of challenging harmful food production technologies and promoting sustainable alternatives." It deals with ractopamine, a drug administered to pigs (through their feed) in only a handful of countries including—shocker!—the United States.

Will you (please, I am officially begging) take seven seconds to sign the petition asking Smithfield Foods, Triumph Foods, Seaboard Foods, The Maschhoffs, Prestage Farms, Iowa Select Farms, The Pipestone System, Cargill Pork, The Carthage System and AMVC Management Services to stop using ractopamine? Here's the deal:

Tell Top Ten U.S. Pork Producers to Drop Risky Drug Ractopamine

Ractopamine is a controversial drug used widely as an animal feed additive in industrial factory farms that raises significant food safety and animal welfare concerns for U.S. and international consumers. Unlike the U.S., more than 160 countries –including Russia, China, Taiwan, and the 27 members of the European Union--ban or strictly limit the use of ractopamine, a controversial drug used widely in animal feed that promotes growth in pigs, cattle, and turkeys. Ractopamine is linked with serious health and behavioral problems in animals, and while human health studies are limited, those that exist raise serious concerns. 
While the U.S. has so far refused to join the international community in banning this risky drug in animal feed, the U.S. already has a certified ractopamine-free program for pork exports to the E.U., and some corporate producers are already operating production plants that are 100% ractopamine-free to meet international demand. It is therefore not unreasonable to expect the same for U.S. market as well. In fact, some U.S. food companies already avoid meat produced with the feed additive, including Chipotle restaurants, producer Niman Ranch, and Whole Foods Markets.  But in order for food companies to offer meat free of ractopamine, pork producers need to provide it.
Sign our petition to the Top Ten pork producers in the U.S. urging them to stop using ractopamine in pork production!
More Information:
What is Ractopamine? 
Ractopamine is a controversial drug used widely as an animal feed additive in industrial factory farms that raises significant food safety and animal welfare concerns for U.S. and international consumers. The U.S. meat industry uses ractopamine to accelerate weight gain and promote feed efficiency and leanness in pigs, cattle, and turkeys. The drug mimics stress hormones and increases the rate at which the animals convert feed to muscle. 
In 1999, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that ractopamine was safe and approved it for use in feed for pigs, later approving it for cattle and turkeys as well.  Veterinarian oversight, however, is not required for producers to use ractopamine; it is available on an “over-the-counter” basis. Ractopamine is associated with major health problems in food-producing animals, such as “downer” syndrome and severe cardiovascular stress, and has also been linked to heart problems and even poisoning in humans.  Most of the 196 countries in the world have banned or restricted ractopamine; only the U.S. and 25 other major meat-producing nations allow its use. A recent report by the research and testing publication Consumer Reports investigating 240 U.S. pork products found that one in five products tested positive for ractopamine residues.